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Rabbi Toba's Shabbat Thoughts

02/21/2024 01:15:09 PM


Please enjoy these excerpts from Rabbi Toba's weekly pre-Shabbat emails, and contact to be added to the mailing list!


Shabbat Hagadol 5784

04/19/2024 03:24:00 PM


This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol, “the great Shabbat,” most likely in honor of the special haftarah, a selection from the prophet Malachi that warns of a “great day” coming, an era of justice and healing. More colloquially, it took on this name because the rabbi would give a really long sermon about keeping the rules of Passover kashrut!
While I won’t be haranguing  anyone about their kashrut observance, I...Read more...

Parashat Shmini/Shabbat HaChodesh 5784

04/05/2024 04:23:00 PM


This Sunday, April 7, marks 6 months since the attacks of October 7 and the devastating war in Gaza began.  The horrifying, inexcusable killing of workers with World Central Kitchen this past week is simply the latest in the horrors of this war, in which countless innocent people have lost their lives, in which most of the population of Gaza is suffering from famine, and which has made Israelis no safer (quite the contrary). Even as...Read more...

Parashat Tzav 5784

03/29/2024 05:42:00 PM


This week’s Torah portion, Tzav, is the second in the book of Vayikra/Leviticus, a book dedicated to the various priestly rituals and laws relating to the Temple in Jerusalem.  At the heart of priestly practice was the sacrificial system, in which Israelites would bring offerings to the Temple – grains, fruits, and animals – as a korban, an offering meant to bring the person closer to an experience of the...Read more...

Parashat Vayikra/Shabbat Zakhor 5784

03/22/2024 05:31:00 PM


We are entering into the Shabbat before Purim, Shabbat Zakhor—“Remember!”—based on an a few verses from the book of Deuteronomy traditionally added to the weekly Torah reading, in which the Israelites are commanded to “remember what Amalek did to you on your way out of Egypt,” and the additional command to “blot out the memory of Amalek.”  The villain of the Purim story, Haman, is understood to be a descendant of the...Read more...

Parashat Pekudei 5784

03/15/2024 02:03:00 PM


In this week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, we come to the end of the book of Exodus with an account of the completion of the building of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary in the desert.  The final verses of Exodus recount Moses setting up each piece of the Mishkan, which was crafted by the people, and then, the “God cloud” descending to indicate YHVH’s Presence within the Mishkan.

Rabbi Shefa Gold shares a beautiful...

Parashat Vayak’hel 5784

03/08/2024 04:07:00 PM


This week’s Torah portion is Vayak’hel, “And he gathered,” which recounts Moses gathering together the Israelite community to begin the work of building the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.  I was blessed to experience my own “gathering” this week in Atlanta with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. Due to both the pandemic and then the movement-wide convention in 2022, this was the first time we’d had our...Read more...

Parashat Ki Tisa 5784

03/01/2024 12:57:00 PM


This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa, which relates the episode of the Golden Calf, which the Israelites create in a panic at Moses’ absence on Mount Sinai.  There is a very interesting analysis by biblical scholar Jacob Milgrom of what he calls the “Hexateuch,” the 6 books from Genesis through the book of Joshua (Joshua is the book immediately following Deuteronomy, the last of the “five books of Moses,” in the Hebrew...Read more...

Parashat Terumah 5784

02/16/2024 01:47:00 PM


This week we begin the final section of the book of Exodus, which is almost entirely taken up with the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Israelites throughout their wilderness wanderings. Parshat Terumah includes God’s instructions to Moses to “build me a holy place, that I may dwell among you.” This structure, to be created through the voluntary donations and craftwork of the Israelite community,...Read more...

Parashat Yitro 5784

02/02/2024 01:12:00 PM


This week’s Torah portion, Yitro, recounts the climatic moment in the Exodus story when the Israelites stand at Sinai to enter into covenant with the Divine, receiving the Ten Commandments (and in later tradition, the entire Torah).  There is an enormous amount of midrash and traditional commentary about this moment, as our rabbinic ancestors imagined what it must have been like to be present there at the mountain.
One...

Parashat Bo 5784

01/19/2024 03:08:00 PM


I just returned from an incredibly inspiring rally in support of the Newton Teachers Association at the Newton City Hall.  Over 1,000 teachers, students, and community supporters were out in full force, braving the cold and chanting “enough is enough,” in support of a new, fair contract for the teachers. With so much going on in the world that tends to make me feel helpless to effect change, it was a wonderful reminder of the power...Read more...

Parashat Vaera 5784

01/12/2024 04:31:00 PM


This Sunday, January 14, marks 100 days since the fateful events of October 7.  One hundred days since the horrifying attacks on southern Israel. One hundred days of captivity for those who are still held hostage by Hamas (you can read more about those still held hostage, and support their families, here). Fateful, fearful, excruciating days. And as that day approaches, as we mark nearly 100 days of the devastating Israeli response...Read more...

Parashat Shemot 5784

01/05/2024 02:44:00 PM


This week we begin reading the book of Exodus/Shemot, which initiates the great story of the liberation from slavery in Egypt. In the first chapters of the book, the verb to “see” is repeated numerous times.  When Moses is born, his mother “sees” how beautiful he is, and  decides to save him from Pharaoh’s decree to murder all newborn Israelite boys.  She puts him in the Nile in a little basket, and as it floats...Read more...

Tue, April 23 2024 15 Nisan 5784